Ah the new year! The promise of renewal. A chance to do it all again.
Except. What if you just don’t feel like it?
What if heading back to work this year was a slog for you? What if you are already in burnout mode and rather than enthusiasm for another year, you want something —anything — to be different.
Burnout — long-term seemingly unresolvable work-related stress — is not only recognized as a legitimate medical disorder, many of the symptoms of burnout mirror and overlap with the hallmarks of depression, making it hard to figure a way out.
Often we believe we know EXACTLY what will fix it. But that solution — usually an external solution — a new job or a new boss or for Dilbert in marketing to just NEVER EMAIL YOU AGAIN — seems completely out of reach.
You’re stuck where you are, filling your free time with fantasies of winning the lottery or at happy hour recounting the horrors of your current situation so that your friends can affirm how unlucky and put upon you are.
The (un)happy hour reprieve from feelings of listlessness or exploitation or inertia is a gift, but it unfortunately burns off by the next morning.
What does help combat burnout?
Dr. Marlynn Wei offers some suggestions, which I know you’ve heard before. Get more sleep, practice yoga and meditation, and take time for self-care. Yes, do these things. They will support you in coping with burnout, they will mitigate the impacts of the ongoing stress, and they will give you a vodka-free space to imagine your way out of your current existential dread.
But alone, they are a coping mechanism. What you need is a strategy. But that strategy is not a list anyone can give you, because it is intensely personal. It depends on 1) what you really want, 2) what the obstacles currently are to having that, 3) how hard you are ready to work.
Have you outgrown your current role? Are you in the wrong culture? Passed up for promotion? Have little control over your workload? Love your work but overwhelmed by challenges and fear that your don’t have the skills? Lost your mojo for no discernable reason?
More sleep will change how you can respond each day, but it won’t change your feelings when Monday does that awful Monday thing it does.
If you not only want to escape basic fear and dread at work, but actively work towards greatness and joy in whatever you do, you need support to 1) get clear about what you really want, 2) identify your blind spots or behavior patterns, 3) create a plan for measurable impact, 4) find and create more joy.
In short, you need a coach. Not a friend to knock back martinis with, not a mentor who already thinks you are absolutely brilliant, but a straight talking coach who will say to you what no one else will say, will hold you accountable for the goals you set and will be 100% committed to supporting you to make the change you want to make. You don’t need tips to combat burnout so you can feel better doing things the same way; you need someone to help you tap your own inner wisdom so you can figure out what to differently.
I’m biased. Not because I am a coach, but because I have a coach.
I’ll never be that bubbly Monday morning cheerleader, and frankly, I’ve asked her many times not to drop in before 10am, but that’s because I’m busy thinking about my work and being excited about what comes next. I’ve got that I’m where I’m supposed to be and making a difference feeling and I want you to have that too.
Burnout is a signal — from your gut, your head, your heart — from every possible way of knowing — that you have to do something differently. Don’t fight burnout, listen to it and get the support you need to leave it behind.